Sunday, April 15, 2018

A Refuge Assured by Jocelyn Green - REVIEWED


About the Book:
Fleeing One Revolution to the Aftermath of Another, She Seeks and Dreams of Peace

Lacemaker Vivienne Rivard never imagined her craft could threaten her life. Yet in revolutionary France, it is a death sentence when the nobility, and those associated with them, are forced to the guillotine. Vivienne flees to Philadelphia, but danger lurks in the French Quarter, as revolutionary sympathizers begin to suspect a young boy left in her care might be the Dauphin. Can the French settlement Asylum offer permanent refuge?


Militiaman Liam Delaney proudly served in the American Revolution, but now that the new government has imposed an oppressive tax that impacts his family, he barely recognizes the democracy he fought for. He wants only to cultivate his hard-won farm near Asylum, but he soon finds himself drawn into the escalating tension of the Whiskey Rebellion. When he meets a beautiful young Frenchwoman recently arrived from Paris, they are drawn together in surprising ways to fight for the peace and safety for which they long.

My Thoughts:

“When Vienne punched through the air pockets in a lump of dough, she prayed, Fill my empty places with Your love and faithfulness.  As she rolled and sealed her baguettes:  Make smooth my rough edges, Lord.  And so with flour dusting her hair and sweat beading her face and neck, Vienne shaped her bread, and believed that God was shaping her, too.”  (p. 128)

This small paragraph encapsulates the journey that Vienne Rivard traverses throughout the length of Jocelyn Green’s latest novel, A Refuge Assured.  Green’s ability to connect the revolutionary conflict in France in the late 1700’s to the Whiskey rebellion during the infancy of the United States just after their own revolution…absolutely fascinating!!!  The place of Asylum for the French refugees fleeing the trouble in their home country – and to have Vienne tangled so intricately  - through no fault of her own – in every aspect of each trial – this is an absolutely captivating novel!!  You won’t want to miss a single word!

Vienne is a character who exhibits the mix of faith, steadfastness and humanity that I hope my life reflects in some measure.  I honestly don’t know if I would have had the courage to face the things she had to navigate, but all along the journey, she is true to herself and to God.  The way she loves and serves others reflects the transformation that has taken place in her heart through each tragic event she has been forced to navigate.

Readers will come to care deeply for Vienne, Henri, Liam and all the other amazing characters that fill the pages of this very powerfully written novel.  I’ve read many of Jocelyn’s novels, but this one will always be dear to my heart, because she has shown me a version of my life that I long for – a version, that by God’s grace I will walk out with the same strength and integrity that Vienne did.  This is an AMAZING novel!!

About the Author:
Jocelyn Green inspires faith and courage as the award-winning and bestselling author of numerous fiction and nonfiction books, including The Mark of the KingWedded to War, and The 5 Love Languages Military Edition, which she coauthored with bestselling author Dr. Gary Chapman. Her books have garnered starred reviews from Booklist and Publishers Weekly, and have been honored with the Christy Award, the gold medal from the Military Writers Society of America, and the Golden Scroll Award from the Advanced Writers & Speakers Association. She graduated from Taylor University in Upland, Indiana, with a B.A. in English, concentration in writing. Jocelyn lives with her husband, Rob, and two children in Cedar Falls, Iowa. Visit her at www.jocelyngreen.com.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Unhitching from the Crazy Train by Julie Sparkman - REVIEWED


About the Book:
You have a picture of how your life should go. We all do. The dream job. Close friendships. Loving, grateful children. A perfect marriage. But more often than not, life doesn’t go according to plan. So we corral and control, determined to make our picture come true. Our emotional, spiritual, and even physical well being are taken for a crazy ride as our very sanity becomes dependent on how closely reality matches our expectations. No wonder we’re exhausted. We’re hitched to the crazy train, and we want to get off. But how?    
“Come to Me,” Jesus says, “and I will give you rest.”
Join counselor and teacher Julie Sparkman as she explores Jesus’ gentle yet costly invitation to true rest—rest that is dependent on the finished work of a Savior who will never leave us alone.

My Thoughts:
“When life takes a turn away from who we desire, oure response should shift from “That do I do now?” to “What are You doing now and what is my role in YOUR purposes?”  The responsibility to make life work is no longer on our shoulders; instead, we are invited to play a role in what His is doing.”  (p.84)

Julie Sparkman’s book, Unhitching from the Crazy Train, has intersected my life in the perfect season!  This book has captured my heart, called attention to areas of life where I’ve long struggled to understand “why”, and all along I should have been asking, “What?”  This book is a VERY RICH resource that will allow you to identify moments of your life where you’ve jumped on the crazy train and are demanding that God answer your prayer in a way that aligns with your perceived life plan rather that God’s will.

I’ve taken my time with this book.  I’ve soaked in the truths that are presented.  I’ve been challenged by the questions at the end of each chapter.  This has been an incredible tool that God has used in my life to  help me grow into an closer image of His likeness.  Sparkman’s writing style is transparent and direct, and her book is powerful because of that aspect.  She’s not writing from a place of biblical superiority, but rather is presenting life-changing truths she has learned as she has traveled her own life journey.


I cannot begin to recommend this book highly enough!  Buy a copy today and a couple to share!  It will make an amazing small group study, as well as a personal devotional.  This book has impacted my life in a powerful way.  Bless you Julie Sparkman, for writing this amazing book!

About the Author:
Julie Sparkman has been a counselor in private practice for 18 years and is a popular Bible teacher and conference speaker. She is the cofounder of Restore Counseling Ministries in Birmingham, Alabama, where she helps individuals and couples learn to practically apply the gospel to their everyday lives and relationships. You can learn more about Julie’s ministry at restore-ministries.org.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Beneath the Surface by Lynn H. Blackburn - REVIEWED


About the Book:
After a harrowing experience with an obsessed patient, oncology nurse practitioner Leigh Weston needed a change. She thought she'd left her troubles behind when she moved home to Carrington, North Carolina, and took a job in the emergency department of the local hospital. But when someone tampers with her brakes, she fears the past has chased her into the present. She reaches out to her high school friend turned homicide investigator, Ryan Parker, for help.

Ryan finds satisfaction in his career, but his favorite way to use his skills is as a volunteer underwater investigator with the Carrington County Sheriff's Office dive team. When the body of a wealthy businessman is discovered in Lake Porter, the investigation uncovers a possible serial killer--one with a terrifying connection to Leigh Weston and deadly implications for them all.

Dive into the depths of fear with an exciting new voice in romantic suspense. Award-winning author Lynn H. Blackburn grabs readers by the throat and doesn't let go until the final heart-pounding page.

My Thoughts:
Could she trust him to keep her alive?  Or trust him I that wasn’t his plan at all?” (p. 206)

Leigh Weston wrestles with a lot of questions in Lynn H. Blackburn’s novel, Beneath the Surface.  She has come to her lake home to restore peace in her life after a traumatic event, only to have a dead body turn up nearby, and then to be pursued by an unknown killer.  Detective Ryan Parker, a childhood friend of her older brother, is assigned to the case, but even his best attempts to keep Leigh safe are thwarted at every turn.  Leigh begins to reach out God, who she’s basically ignored for a while, and begins to wonder if He hears her cries for help.

This is a really well-written story, and both Leigh and Ryan will become a familiar presence in your heart and mind as you walk with them through their adventure.  There are many twists and turns, but once it’s discovered that there is a serial killer on the move in this North Carolina town, this pace ramps up quickly.  I must say, I really enjoy an author who keeps her villains well-hidden until the end of the novel!


This is the first in the Dive Team series, so jump on board and hang on for the ride!  There is a bit of romance mixed in, but the chase of the killer takes precedence.  I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and I’m happy to recommend it to everyone!  

About the Author:

Lynn H. Blackburn is the author of Beneath the Surface, Hidden Legacy, and Covert Justice, winner of the 2016 Selah Award for Mystery and Suspense and the 2016 Carol Award for Short Novel. Blackburn believes in the power of stories, especially those that remind us that true love exists, a gift from the Truest Love. She's passionate about CrossFit, coffee, and chocolate (don't make her choose) and experimenting with recipes that feed both body and soul. She lives in Simpsonville, South Carolina, with her true love, Brian, and their three children.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Long-time missionary details her journey through ministry burnout in new book - Fanning the Flame by Terri Clark

n a survey by expastors.com last year, 71% of ministers said they had gone through spiritual burnout. A similar study by the Francis A. Schaeffer Institute of Church Leadership Development showed similar statistics the year before, citing 70% of pastors developing depression, fatigue or burnout. But it doesn’t just happen to clergy, as a recent study by the Public Religion Research Institute indicates. Twenty-five percent of Americans claim no formal religious identity, making this segment the single largest “religious group” in the U.S. Author, counselor, and missionary Terri Clark knows these statistics too well. She was one of them. And in her new book, “Fanning the Flame: Reigniting your Faith in God”, Clark reveals her own personal struggles with a waning faith.

“I have served in ministry for over four decades,” says Clark. “We have built a hospital in Uganda, enrolled over 500 children in a Child Education Sponsorship program, I have shared the Gospel in India, Vietnam, China and Myanmar. And yet, I felt I was losing my passion for God. I felt like I was going through the motions and living a mediocre faith. But I began to get honest with myself and with God, and identify the things that were driving me towards burnout."

In “Fanning the Flame”, Clark admittedly gets very transparent with readers about the issues she discovered in her own life. But it was a simple object from a crafts store that made the scriptures she had read all her life take on a whole new meaning.

“I am a visual learner and when God kept bringing scriptures to me about lamps, I became curious as to what those looked like when the verses were written. I learned that the lamps in that time period were made out of clay and they were shaped like small bowels that fit in the palm of your hand. So I went to the store, got some clay, baked it and made one for myself. I put a piece of terry cloth in it as the wick, added some olive oil, and it actually worked! But I noticed it would burn out quickly until I trimmed the wick, then it would burn bright again, just as the scripture suggests. God taught me some important lessons through that exercise. We are the clay formed by the potter, shaped for a purpose — to bring light. But we need the oil (the Holy Spirit) and faith (the wick) in order to do that. And we need to trim that faith (wick) often in order to get rid of the black, burned out things in our lives that keep us from being a bright, glowing light.”

Clark also writes about some direct correlations she discovered between the Old Testament feasts that God required of the Israelites and the faith walk of most modern-day Christians.

“God’s people were required to take a pilgrimage three times per year to celebrate three festivals: Passover, Shavuot, and Sukkot. When I studied the meanings behind each of these events, I realized there were parallel meanings between these festivals and the Christian life. That discovery helped me understand where my own faith had wavered, and what I needed to do to get it back on track.”

Clark hopes this book helps both church leaders who are experiencing burn out, as well as people who have abandoned their faith reignite their relationship with God.

“I had one lady who read an early copy of the book tell me that she had struggled with her faith for the past 14 years, but this book helped her get back on track. That is exactly what I hope will happen for everyone who reads it. I get very vulnerable in the book and share my own battles with the obstacles that blocked my pursuit of God. The main thing I want them to gain is a renewed sense of God’s presence in their lives.”

About the Author:
As President and Founder of Terri Clark Ministries, Inc., a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, Terri Clark has an on-going outreach in Uganda where her ministry helped build the Ray of Hope Medical Center and establish a Child Education Sponsorship Program that has served over 500 children. Her international outreaches have included Mexico, India, Vietnam, China and Myanmar. She authored the book “Tying the Family Knot: Meeting the Challenges of a Blended Family” and is an AACC Biblical Counselor and Christian Life Coach. Her articles have appeared in magazines such as Focus on the Family’sThriving Family Magazine, Lifeway’s Home Life, Parent Life andParenting Teens magazines, as well as Crosswalk.com and CBN.com. She and her husband, Harvey, enjoy life together, especially while riding their Spyder motorcycles. For more information, visit www.terriclarkministries.org.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

A Passionate Hope by Jill Eileen Smith - REVIEWED

About the Book:
Can one woman's prayers change the world?

Hannah and her husband, Elkanah, share a deep and abiding love for each other, for their God, and for His tabernacle at Shiloh. Greatly disturbed by the corruption of the priests, they long for restoration and pray for a deliverer. But nothing changes as the years pass. Years that also reveal Hannah to be barren.

Pressured by his family to take another wife, Elkanah marries Peninnah, who quickly begins to bear children. Disgraced and taunted by her husband's new wife, Hannah turns again to prayers that seem doomed to go unanswered. Do her devotion and kindness in the face of Peninnah's cruelty count for nothing? Will God remain silent and indifferent to her pleas?


Travel back to the dusty streets of Shiloh with an expert guide as Jill Eileen Smith brings to life a beloved story of hope, patience, and deliverance that shows that even the most broken of relationships can be restored.

My Thoughts:
“…God uses us in different ways to accomplish His will.”  (p. 357)

If, at any point in the future, I am feeling useless, unimportant or not needed, I’m going to pick up this book and be reminded of God’s mercy and grace!  I’ve said this about books over my years of blogging, but I am adamant when I say, this book has been a divine God appointment in my life, for such a time as this!!  I’ve struggled to find time to read this book, and grew frustrated when it seemed I was delayed, yet again.  Now,  I understand why God wanted me to read the final chapters of this book today – He knew I needed to hear the perspective from women of the Bible who waited and longed for things that seemed out of their reach.

God’s reach is NEVER limited – PRAISE HIM!!!  Hannah’s faith wavered in the face of her husband’s second wife’s fertility.  Being barren was a burden that Hannah carried for years!  Yet, even before she conceived her first born son, Samuel, she’d already given him to God.  The author does a masterful job at displaying all of the difficult and complex emotions that Hannah experienced along her life journey.  I almost felt she’d be practicing for the day she would leave Samson at the temple all of those years that she had daily placed her trust in God for children that it seemed she would never have.  Hers was a daily faith that withstood years of testing!


By the time I reached the end of this novel, my heart was simply aching with emotion!  I had cried and laughed, been angry and afraid…my emotions had run the gamut!  I can honestly say that this book left me full, challenged and strengthened in my own faith journey.  Empty nesting, watching adult children struggle, so many things going on in my own personal journey – and then I collide with Hannah’s steadfast faith, and my hope is renewed!  This is a masterfully told, beautiful story of God’s AMAZING GRACE for us all!!  Rejoicing that this book was in my life today!!

About the Author:
Jill Eileen Smith is the bestselling and award-winning author of the Wives of King David, the Wives of the Patriarchs, the Loves of King Solomon, and the Daughters of the Promised Land series. Her research into the lives of biblical women has taken her from the Bible to Israel, and she particularly enjoys learning how women lived in Old Testament times. Jill lives with her family in southeast Michigan. Learn more at www.jilleileensmith.com.


Monday, February 26, 2018

HIStory in 30 Days by Carol O. Schryber - REVIEWED


About the Book:
One story.

One plot.

One hero.

Some may think Jesus Christ isn’t mentioned in the Bible until the New Testament. Is that a correct notion? Definitely not. Is Jesus referenced in the Old Testament? Absolutely! He is there from the very beginning. Every foretelling about the lineage, birth, life, death, and resurrection of Christ the Savior can be traced and is fulfilled in the sixty-six books of the Bible.


From beginning to end, the Bible is his story—one story, one plot, one hero. In HIStory in 30 Days: Genesis to Revelation with Daily Devotionals, author Carole Schryber provides thirty daily readings with devotionals and prayers. Written in an engaging, fast-paced, accessible style, you follow along as HIStory unfolds and learn what part you’re meant to play in it.

My Thoughts:
Carol Shryber’s book, HIStory in 30 Days, is absolutely the most succinct introduction to the Bible I’ve ever encountered!  This book literally covers Genesis through Revelation in 30 days of personal devotions.  The synopsis portion includes far more detail than you’d expect in such a brief volume, and the details are both historically accurate and theologically sound.  The Biblical synopsis is followed by personal testimony and application from the author’s own faith journey, and then by a brief heart-felt prayer.

So, what makes this so special, you may ask?  The author’s personal testimony of how God used HIStory to win her heart and bring her to faith in Christ.  She was a lawyer with a family of young children before she and her husband even began attending church, and it was the timeliness of her own children’s blossoming faith that began to draw her into her own personal relationship with Christ.  The transparency with which she shares her own steps toward faith make this small volume a powerful ministry tool!  This would be a perfect book to share with new believers who come from a non-church background!  With a newly blossoming seed of faith being watered by the truth of God’s Word as Shryber presents it, I believe that many will become hungry to know more and more about their Savior!


This is truly a powerful volume of devotions, and will refresh and renew the faith of believers who have walked with God for years.  For those who use the excuse of “not enough time” - the book eliminates the excuse!  These devotions are brief, but powerful!  I am happy to recommend this book to everyone!

About the Author:
Carole Schryber was a New York attorney, who gave up the practice of law to devote herself to studying and teaching Scripture. She has used her research and analytical skills from the study of law for inductive Bible study. For the past fifteen years she has been a Christian teacher, speaker and writer, as well as the Associate Teaching Director of Community Bible Study in McLean, Virginia, which serves more than four hundred women weekly. Carole has three grown children and resides in the Washington DC area with her husband, John.

Friday, February 16, 2018

They Were Single Too by David M Hoffeditz - REVEIWED


About the Book:
Singleness is not a sin that needs to be redeemed. Yet for many single Christians, the way the church regards them often feels condemning. Living between these truths can be a painful, frustrating experience.

By examining eight individuals from Scripture who were single at some point in their adult lives--Paul, Anna, Martha, Jeremiah, Ruth, Joseph, Nehemiah, and John the Baptist--Hoffeditz guides readers through common struggles singles face, such as loneliness and disappointment.

Hoffeditz isn't offering a self-help guide, a twelve-step program to recovery, or philosophical musings. They Were Single Too spells out concrete steps for a healthy, God-approved attitude toward unmarried life and how one can truly serve God without a spouse. Brief chapters with questions for reflection allow for either individual or group study.


Long used as a resource for singles ministries, this revised edition updates the language of this timeless biblical study and makes it more attractive for today's reader.

My Thoughts:
David Hoffeditz’ book, They Were Single Too, comes to me at a very different time than any other in my life.  Unlike the author, who was single when he penned the book ten years ago and is now married, I was married for 23 years and am now single.  The truths of this book apply no matter which direction you come to singleness.  Truthfully, this book has been encouraging, challenging and immensely comforting to me.  I’ve recommended it to all of my single friends!  Why?

Well, the opening words speak volumes!  “While neither marriage no singleness is permanent, we accept our present marital status as a God-given gift.” That succinctly describes the longing of my heart, to accept where God has placed me and serve Him without being distracted by wanting things to be different than they are.  The author dives deep into the lives of those who were single – Paul, Anna, Martha, Joseph, John the Baptist – and unexpected looks at Ruth, and her season of singleness and Jeremiah and Nehemiah.   I was fascinated by the truths that he unearthed in each of their lives!


Each chapter ends with thoughtful questions to consider, and, because of this, the book becomes ideal for either individual study or – better yet – a small group guide for singles!  I’m super excited to consider this for a group during the next semester of small groups at my local church!  As I’ve already said, I’ve been encouraged, challenged and comforted throughout my time between its pages! I’ve underlined and made notes and am thrilled to recommend this to anyone who finds themselves wondering what God’s intentions are for their season of singleness! 


About the Author:
David M. Hoffeditz (PhD, University of Aberdeen) has taught beginning and intermediate Greek at the collegiate level and currently serves on the pastoral staff of a church in Springfield, Ohio.